When a Carvin instrument has been featured in this space over the years, it was a either a doubleneck or an unusual custom instrument. And while the 1977 LB70 featured this month was a production bass, it was still unique.
Carvin was founded in the mid ’40s by musician Lowell Kiesel (1915-2009). Known for its direct-to-customer marketing of made-to-order instruments, the company originally made pickups and lap steels, then delved into Spanish-style electric guitars in the mid ’50s. From the early ’60s through the late ’70s, it used bodies and necks made by Höfner, the German instrument maker.Carvin’s early basses were short-scale instruments, and the LB70 (introduced in ’76) was the company’s first with a 34″ scale (its prefix denotes “long bass”).
Its overall length was 45 3/4″, and the ’77 catalog touted its weight at 10 1/2 pounds.Its Höfner-made neck was maple with a bound rosewood fretboard, mother-of-pearl dot markers, and an adjustable truss rod. According to catalog text, the neck measured “…1 9/16″ wide at the nut, 2 3/8″ wide at heel, 7/8″ thick at fifth fret…” Its maple body was made by Carvin and measured 12 1/2″ inches wide by 15/8″ deep.
The body had a laminated black-celluloid pickguard (also Höfner-made) and a “hand-rubbed, durable polyester finish” that came in black only on the standard version, but in two finishes for the stereo version – black (LB70SB) or clear (LB70SC). The headstocks on all sported Schaller M4SL tuning machines.The LB70 was initially given Carvin’s open-coil APH-4N humbucking pickups, but in ’77 they were dressed up with chrome covers and a given new designation – APH-8. The intonatable bridge’s plate and saddles were made of brass; note the close proximity of the treble pickup to the bridge, which was unusual at the time. The LB70B had Gibson-like controls – Volume and Tone for each pickup, a three-way pickup toggle, and a phase switch. One electronic option was dual-coil to single-coil switching. The input jack was also on the top of the pickguard.
The controls on the stereo-wired LB70SB and LB70SC were more complex; the three-way toggle was still there, but a bit further up the pickguard. They also used three mini-toggles consisting of two coil-splitters (one of each pickup) and a phase switch. Because of their plethora of knobs and switches, the SB and SC have individual Volume controls, and a master Tone. Curiously, this incongruity is not mentioned in the catalog.The presence of two input jacks tags the LB70SB as a stereo instrument, but the wiring of the inputs was similar to Rickenbacker’s “Ric-O-Sound” configuration; plugging into one jack with a regular cord allows both pickups to be utilized in mono. In the catalog, the LB70 listed with a manufacturer-direct price of $259. The stereo LB70SB was $299.
While the LB70 was a respectable instrument, the writing was on the wall for Carvin bolt-neck basses. The ’78 catalog listed only one bass, the CB100 – an un-Fender-like single-cut with a two-tuners-per-side headstock and the new M22B pickups. Soon afterward, the company turned to set-neck models, followed in the ’80s by neck-through designs.
“The late ’70s were a transitional period for Carvin,” said Kevin Wright, who runs carvinmuseum.com. “The company began moving away from assembling Höfner-supplied bodies and necks equipped with Carvin electronics to designing and building their own guitars and basses completely in-house. The LB70 disappeared from catalogs for several years, but the model number was resurrected in ’88, in a configuration that Wright called “…the cornerstone of Carvin’s neck-through basses. It’s still a popular model today, and has been supplemented with five-string and six-string versions.”
Price: $259/$299 (stereo)
This article originally appeared in VG July 2011 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.